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Public policy is a course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a problem. Public policy is expressed in the body of laws, regulations, decisions and actions of government. Policy analysis may be used to formulate public policy and to evaluate its effectiveness. Many public policy analysts earn MPP's and MPA's in public policy schools, while others earn specialized degrees, such as an M.Ed for specializing in educational policy or an MSW for specializing in social welfare policy.
According to William Jenkins in Policy Analysis: A Political and Organizational Perspective (1978), a Public Policy is ‘a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve’. Thus, Jenkins understands Public Policy making to be a process, and not simply a choice.
According to Thomas A. Birkland in An Introduction to the Policy Process (2001), there is a lack of a consensus on the definition of public policy. Birkland outlines a few definitions of public policy (Table 1.3 on p. 21):
- Clarke E. Cochran, et al.: "The term public policy always refers to the actions of government and the intentions that determine those actions.
- Clarke E. Cochran, et al.: "Public policy is the outcome of the struggle in government over who gets what".
- Thomas Dye: Public policy is "Whatever governments choose to do or not do".
- Charles L. Cochran and Eloise F. Malone: "Public policy consists of political decisions for implementing programs to achieve societal goals".
- B. Guy Peters: "Stated most simply, public policy is the sum of government activities, whether acting directly or through agents, as it has an influence on the life of citizens".
Birkland indicates that the elements common to all definitions of public policy are as follows (p. 20):
- The policy is made in the name of the "public".
- Policy is generally made or initiated by government.
- Policy is interpreted and implemented by public and private actors.
- Policy is what the government intends to do.
- Policy is what the government chooses not to do.
Types of policy
There are a number of areas of government policy making that are of professional relevance to psychologists. For example, at the level of political policy, ethnic relations is discussed in terms of either assimilationism or multiculturalism. Anti-racism forms another style of policy, particularly popular in the 1960s and 70s.
Other ares of interest include:
- Communications and Information Policy
- Crime policy
- Defence policy
- Domestic policy
- Economic policy
- Education policy
- Energy policy
- Environmental Policy
- Foreign policy
- Health care policy
- Housing policy
- Human resource policies
- Information policy
- Macroeconomic policy
- Monetary policy
- National defense policy
- Population policy
- Public policy in law
- Social policy
- Social welfare policy
- Transportation policy
- Urban policy
- Water policy
- Legal processes
- Legaslative processes
- Political science
- Program evaluation
- Public administration
- Public health
- Public services
- Social contract
- Social welfare
- Social work
- RAND Corporation
- National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration
- Policy.ca - Clearinghouse for Canadian Public Policy Articles, Organizations and Authors (Canada)
- AARP Public Policy Institute (United States)
- The Hoover Digest
- The Brookings Institute
- Global Public Policy Institute
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